Words of Wisdom: Elevate your speech
September 1, 2019 (click here for PDF version)
Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Instructions: When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.
Core Point: We are focusing on the words and actions of people as they follow Jesus as disciples. The salient point of this series is that as Christians we are called into community with other believers to be a holy nation representing the grace and love of God in the world by both word and deed.
Start point: This week, the scripture focus is found in the Letter of 2 Timothy. This letter was written by Paul who was imprisoned at the time. The letter was probably his last letter written sometime in the late summer of 67 A.D. to encourage Timothy to exercise his pastoral office in helping the community of faith. Paul encouraged Timothy to stay strong in the face of persecution by the state which saw the new Christian community as rebels and anarchists. Paul also encouraged him to teach, or correctly handle the word of truth. The community in which Timothy was pastoring had a heavy influence from the Gnostic Christians. Timothy was entrusted to strengthen the beliefs and activity of the Christian community in the onslaught of Christian heresy and outside persecution.
The Gnostic Christians were considered heretics. The origin of the Gnostic belief arouse out of the Hellenistic world that existed before Christianity. Gnosticism incorporated a variety of religions and intellectual movements to form a philosophy of being. The Gnostic belief system held that the material world was evil and the non-material was good. Since God is good, then God did not inhabit the material. Jesus was a spirit and never was an actual physical being. People did not sin, they were just ignorant, so the task was to help people get to know God through the rise of knowledge, or “Gnosis.” Practically speaking, God did not care about the material world, so the body could do anything it wanted. As long as the person’s spiritual relationship with God was increasing in knowledge, then it did not matter what the body did. This directly contradicts the message of Christ in the Gospel.
Reflect on this Scripture:
2 Timothy 2:14-24 (NIV)
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from this passage?
How do we present ourselves before God on a daily basis?
Why or why not would God approve of you?
What is Godless chatter?
In his fractious world, Timothy was called to build a gospel-centered community. Does being in Christian community today temper the human tendency to quarrel? If so, how?
How does one miss handle the word of truth?
How does God know you?
In this letter to Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy to be a pastor that helps the community of believers to stand strong in representing the Christian faith with integrity and truth. In Timothy’s time, Gnosticism was pushing a theology of half-truths and heresy, while the ruling authorities were speaking half-truths and lies about the community. Both entities were working hard to beat into submission the new Christian community and lead them into an inaccurate belief. Pastor Timothy was called to lead the community into a dialogue that was uplifting and promoting accurate theology about Christ Jesus. Paul identifies two people, Hymenaeus and Philetus, as ones who were leading people away from good theology. The godless chatter was discussion that generated half-truths in Christology. That dialogue would lead to a discussion over the meaning of words that caused people to question basic beliefs reflected in the apostles’ teachings. The dialogue over words were to create confusion and lead people to ungodly beliefs. The confusion would then cause division and strife in the community. Pastor Timothy was called to bring about unity of belief and truth of word in Love. The image of the special things, gold and silver, and the common things, wood and clay were written in juxtaposition to call people to step up in integrity and out of mediocrity of faith. Consequently, were the Christians going to step up their game to have a God given purpose in uniting the community, like precious gold and silver, or be of common use, like wood and clay, and exacerbating the division created by external entities that lead to heresy and half-truth? Sadly, our culture is filled with tweets of half-truths, gossip columns of fake tabloids, and demeaning tag-lines that bring abound social-meania. Pastor Timothy would say, NO! Don’t give into that! Give yourself over to focusing on that which builds up faith, edifies one another, shares accurate truth in love, and promotes unity. In our culture of technology and social media, we can easily hide and shoot our comments from the hip. So many times our communication online can lead to half-truths, miss information, or wrong information that can truly hurt someone. It is as if we become social media poachers that find sport in it. Speaking online allows us to hide and speak in ways that can be impersonal and hateful. Going offline and speaking to people face to face in a personal way will help lead us to communicate in a way that is more civil and edifying.
Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
How is our current culture similar to Pastor Timothy’s culture in scripture?
What are half-truths and how do they come out in our culture?
How is the battle of words going in our social media driven culture?
Does connecting off-line, person-to-person in a community of faith make a difference for you? If so, how?
What can you do to make a positive difference in our fractured culture?
How can you bring forth integrity and truth to the people around you?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Memorize and internalize this scripture: 2 Timothy 2:16 (NRSV)
“16 avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”
2. This week, focus on the idea of godless chatter. What type of communication, or chatter leads you into being ungodly, or falling short of God’s glory in your life? Commit to stopping yourself from the chatter that leads to unhealthy, divisive, or ungodly activity.
3. Sign up for “the People’s Supper” dinner and training Wednesday, September 11, 6:30-7:30 pm in Wesley Hall. Make an investment in building community (Social Meaning) this week.